"I saw his life slippin'. "This is a minor setback; still in all, we livin', just dream about the getback." That made him smile, though his eyes said 'Pray for me.' I'll do you one better and slay these brothers faithfully." - Jay-Z, "Dead Presidents II"
If you've watched any spaghetti Western, film noir or crime drama, then you know the role of the tragic hero. He's usually a shifty-eyed guy, always sweating, nervously smoking a cigarette and looking as if he hasn't slept in days.
He's always running from something: the police, the mob, the hired guns, somebody. But in the end, it turns out he's running from himself. Namely, his conscience.
He just can't bring himself to be a good guy until the very end—and by then, it's usually too late to save himself.
This is the allegory of the 2010 Chicago White Sox.
On the inside, there is good, fighting to get out, but their bad side usually gets the upper hand. By the time the good wins, it might be too late.
Slipping into darkness
After another subpar week of play, the White Sox find themselves an overwhelming 4.5 games back of first.
Yes, that was sarcastic.
After losing the lead in five of the six games they played (and blowing a late lead in four of them), the Sox finished their Central Division road trip at 2-4. Yet amazingly, they are below the "danger zone" mark of five games behind Minnesota, thanks to a stalwart performance by Rich "The Tin Man" Harden and the Texas Rangers.
The fact remains that the ChiSox have been playing low-quality baseball for the better part of the month. Some of that can be forgiven, as August is the time when fatigue sets in for almost every major league team.
However, without a couple of bullpen meltdowns, the Sox would be two or three games behind the Twins instead of four and a half. The offense is not the problem anymore. Now, the pitching must be taken to task.
The 'Pen Is Mightier?
In the course of a routine MLB season, there are approximately 5,022 games played between 31 teams. Naturally, each team's bullpen is going to concede more than a few games. However, it is paramount that the 'pen be working it's hardest when the games count the most. Here's a look at some of the games the White Sox relievers would like another shot at:
May 9: Blue Jays 9, White Sox 7
It was early in the season, but the troubling signs were already surrounding Bobby Jenks when he surrendered a ninth-inning, three-run homer to Fred Lewis. The Sox had entered the inning leading 7-5 and were looking to split the four-game set.
July 13 (MLB All-Star Game): NL 3, AL 1
This one doesn't count, right? Surely it doesn't count. But when your top setup man gives up the go-ahead RBI double in his first All-Star appearance, it's a little embarrassing. But that would be Matt Thornton's only hiccup for the remainder of the season, right...?
July 18: Twins 7, White Sox 6
Ah, the day things really started to go downhill. The Sox take a late lead, bring in Bobby Jenks, who in turn does not record an out. I would attempt to blame Sergio Santos but by the time he entered, the game was already decided.
August 17: Twins 7, White Sox 6 (10)
Wrong. Thornton seems to have all but forgotten his sweeping slider to left-handers, a must when facing Jim Thome. Unfortunately, an inside fastball wasn't inside enough and the Twins claimed a poster victory in their race for the division.
And that's discounting the Aug. 15 loss to Detroit and the two leads blown this past weekend in Kansas City.
On to the next one
It seems somewhat trifling to keep saying every game and every series is a must-win, but that's it. The White Sox are in do-or-die territory now. It's not enough to hope the Twins will lose also. The Sox have to beat their opponents.
That will be a tall order this week, as the Orioles come to town, followed by the always foreboding New York Yankees. It will be a watershed moment against the Yanks, as the Sox will face A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia in the first two games, probably followed by rookie Ivan Nova.
With the Twins facing the tough Texas Rangers and Alex Rodriguez doubtful for the weekend series, the White Sox must make a statement. Nothing less than five wins can keep them in the pennant race.
In 2005, the White Sox went through a tough stretch in August, finishing the month 12-16. However, it was their only losing month of the season and they exited with a four-game lead in the division.
This time, the Sox are chasing the leaders. As the Jay-Z quote says, their life is slipping. It's time to figure out whether the last few weeks have been "a minor setback" or the nail in the coffin.
Forget about the tragedy. It's time to play the hero.
Until next time, keep waving the Pennant.